Marijuana: Are other states profiling Colorado planes for pot as well as cars?

Police in states bordering Colorado have been on the lookout for drivers with Colorado plates, making traffic stops for minor infractions in hopes of busting illegal marijuana shipments coming from the Centennial State. And they've been successful, too, with arrests reports from assorted states frequently making their way back to Colorado.

But are out-of-state law enforcers also profiling Colorado planes? A recent arrest in Kansas begs the question.

Back in April, Colorado pilot William Hiler and his passengers, Dan Brown and Lance Thompson, were arrested at Amelia Earhart Airport in Atchison with about 42 pounds of cannabis in their 1952 Beechcraft airplane.

Cops say Hiler, Brown and Thompson flew into Kansas around 6 p.m. on April 3 and were met by fellow Coloradan Michael Staab and a 22-year-old Kansas City woman. After the plane landed, Staab and the woman pulled up in a 2008 Saab and began hauling suitcases from the single-engine's cargo hold.

That's when cops swarmed in, seized the plane and car, and opened the luggage to find pot valued at more than $100,000 stuffed inside. Cops say the tiny airport in the tiny town probably seemed like a low-risk plan.

"We have a small airport, and they could come in undetected," Atchison police chief Mike Wilson told reporters at the time. "At least they thought so."

And -- as one might expect from a cannabis-intolerant state -- the group wasn't let off with a warning. Everyone involved was accused of possession with intent to distribute, as well as not having a drug-tax stamp for cannabis -- an antiquated law still on the books in some agricultural states where hemp was once legal to grow. The stamp violation is a way to enhance drug penalties in court.

Brown pleaded guilty last month. Then, late last week, Thompson entered a guilty plea for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The tax charges were dropped in both cases. Hiler is due in court July 16 for a preliminary hearing.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), distribution of any amount is a Kansas felony calling for a mandatory year in prison and up to $300,000 in fines.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Signage restrictions a way to prevent community backlash, activist says" and "Retail marijuana emergency rules: William Breathes's first take."

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes

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